Answers to the questions that arise on the spiritual path
• Includes specially selected writings from the huge literary archive of Paul Brunton
• Explains the different stages of meditation and the obstacles likely to arise for each, offering guidance for achieving advanced states of meditation to deepen one’s inner life
• Challenges the need for spiritual dependency on any particular guru, teaching, or practice, showing that following your intuition can bring the best spiritual success
• Explores the process of self-examination and emotional purification, revealing how to break free from the ego and tap into the inspiration flowing from within
No matter where we are in our spiritual development, we all have questions about our practice and what we are experiencing--both the challenges and opportunities. How can I overcome my struggles to meditate more deeply? Is there a need for a guru or can I rely on myself? Can I trust my intuition? Is it possible to hear the “Inner Word,” the voice of the soul, and how can I be sure that’s what I’m hearing? Is the Higher Self in the heart?
Offering trustworthy answers to these and many more questions, renowned spiritual teacher Paul Brunton provides instructions to guide one’s development in three fundamental areas of the spiritual path: meditation, self-examination, and the unfolding of awakening. Guiding you with insight and care through each stage of meditation, including advanced states that deepen one’s inner life, he explains how meditation is the art and practice of introverting attention, of freeing oneself for a period of time from thoughts, sensations, and feelings and allowing the soul to reveal itself out of the quiet that one has created. He explains the goal of each meditative stage and the obstacles you are likely to face and examines the need for spiritual dependency on any particular guru, teaching, or practice, showing that following your intuition can bring spiritual success.
Exploring the process of self-examination and emotional purification, Brunton shows how life’s challenges are moments by which we can make real progress in our surrender to a higher life. He reveals how to break free from the ego, follow your intuition to align with your ideals, and tap into the inspiration flowing from within. He also examines the development of transcendental insight, the cornerstone of compassionate wisdom in action, which allows us to become a source of inspiration to all we encounter.
Including writings received by the Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation after his death, this guide offers transformative wisdom to aid our understanding of what the spiritual journey entails, help point the way when the way is uncertain, and learn and grow from the challenges that arise as you develop spiritually.
The need for solitude and time to cultivate the inner life, in both its metaphysical and mystical phases, is the first imperative. Solitude is needed because the presence of others definitely disturbs the emptying process. Time is needed because the mind is habitually filled with thoughts of the outer world; it is totally essential to empty it of them for a while--regularly, habitually, and deliberately. Without a determined use of willpower it is, however, hard for most people to get solitude or find time.
If the first requirement for solitude develops partly out of the aspirant's need to be able to concentrate thought without interruption, it also develops partly from the restless mental auras that most people carry about with them. They themselves shrink from being alone and naturally introduce an antipathetic influence wherever solitary meditation is being practiced. Perhaps their terror of solitude arises because it makes them conscious of the spiritual aimlessness and intellectual vacuity of their sojourn on earth. The fear of being alone simply means that a man has no inner life at all. The scale of values that lists solitude as a frightful evil to be avoided, or considers the desire for it as an eccentric or even antisocial trait, is materialistic. The mystic who has learned the art of creative solitude can hear a mental voice in its inner silence. Thus for the mystic the loneliness, which is maddening for some, is enlightening.
For the requirement of time, for a certain period each day there must be a separation from all usual physical labors and intellectual activities, a period wherein aspirants can become and remain bodily still and mentally quiet. They must set apart a little time once or twice a day for meditation, just as they set apart some time for eating food. This is indispensable to achieving spiritual progress. It is quite practicable for most people to create a routine that, while satisfying the need of withdrawal for meditation, nevertheless would not interfere with worldly activities and responsibilities.
It is necessary periodically to put aside the things of time so as to seek the timeless, to isolate oneself from the outward world so as to seek an inward one. The psychological purpose of such isolation is to create a new habit and a new attitude. The habit is meditation. The attitude is introversion. Aspirants are led to the hard task of reeducating their powers of perception, understanding, and attention. These powers have to be cultivated through a series of regular exercises. This involves self-training in definite work and a long progressive apprenticeship. Meditation is an art that has to be learned by repeated practice, like the art of playing a piano. It comes naturally to virtually no one. Its technique requires a skill that has to be learned like that of any other art.
Here the habit-forming tendency of the mind can be an excellent aid. Aspirants will gain more by exercises regularly practiced over a period of, say, six months than by the same exercises done in fits and starts over the same period. Consequently, a fixed time of the day should be appointed for them. The ideal rhythm would be to meditate three times a day in coordination with the rhythm of the sun's movements--at dawn, noon, and dusk. But aspirants could not arrive at this all at once. They could best start with a single period and continue with that for months, or even years, until they feel ready to advance and add a second period to it. They will have to work at these two periods, be they dawn and dusk or noon and dusk, for a considerable time before the inner prompting is likely to tell them to take the further step and add the third period. Even then it may not be possible for aspirants always to adhere faithfully to the program thus laid down. Social necessities, for instance, may compel them to leave out some period or other almost every week. Hence, aspirants must do their best within the limits of their personal circumstances.
It will take some time for the mental agitation created by getting immersed in worldly business or personal affairs to subside. Until this happens, the aspirant cannot proceed with the positive work of meditation but rather must engage in the negative task of clearing out those distracting memories. This is one reason why in the East the morning period is recommended for such practice. At the beginning of the day the thoughts and emotions are still undisturbed, hence withdrawal into their center is then easier. Some, however, may find the morning--with its anticipation of activities yet to be started--unattractive for this purpose and may regard the very fatigue of a hard day's work as an inducement to relax in the evening and seek inner peace.
If the regular hour for meditation occasionally proves inconvenient, it may be postponed to a later time. Should this be impossible, the practice may be abandoned for that day. If it is possible to hold enduringly to the full period previously laid down as desirable and available for such exercise, this will help to create an advantageous habit. But if on any particular day the fatigue becomes intolerable, then also it will be better to abandon practice for that day. Aside from these fixed times, or perhaps in displacement of them, the intuitive call to abandon every physical labor and every intellectual activity will recur again and again. Aspirants should obey these calls. In the very midst of business affairs or daily work, aspirants may have sudden lapses into inward abstraction. These will ordinarily be quite brief and definitely should be kept so. But they are worth cultivating wherever and whenever they happen to come. If this is done frequently and faithfully, the power to meditate increases.
Paul Brunton (1898-1981) is widely esteemed for creatively integrating the world’s spiritual teachings and meditation systems into a clear, practical approach best-suited for contemporary life. He is the author of more than 10 books, including the bestselling A Search in Secret India, which introduced Ramana Maharshi to the West.
“Paul Brunton was a great original and got to a place of personal evolution that illumines the pathways of a future humanity.”
– Jean Houston, author of The Possible Human and A Mythic Life
“Any serious man or woman in search of spiritual ideas will find a surprising challenge and an authentic source of inspiration and intellectual nourishment in the writings of Paul Brunton.”
– Jacob Needleman, professor of philosophy at San Francisco State University and author of Lost Christ
“A powerful transmission for our time. Instructions for Spiritual Living and Paul Brunton’s lifetime works should continue to inspire the world for years to come. This powerful book bridges ancient and modern mysticism. A gem!”
– Mariana Caplan, Ph.D., MFT, author of Halfway Up the Mountain: The Error of Premature Claims to Enli
“A truly comprehensive and authoritative work that should be read by sincere seekers and advanced adepts alike. Paul Brunton’s work demonstrates a real mastery of the intricacies of spiritual life. His sagely conclusions on a number of key topics rarely covered elsewhere in spiritual literature provide an important contribution to our contemporary understanding of awakening and enlightenment. This kind of knowledge is indispensable for the modern seeker, because it provides a clear picture of not only what to expect when going through the process of dis-identifying with form and becoming one with the formless but also how to properly integrate this profound transformation of consciousness into an ordinary human life. We are very fortunate that his writings are available.”
– Stephen D’Amico, author of Heaven On Earth and The Incredible State of Absolute Nothingness
“Paul Brunton’s wisdom is like the child’s voice in the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” His observations and spiritual insights reveal a laser-sharp eye that directs us back to that which is obvious within us, though obviously overlooked--the Divine Self.”
– Mooji, spiritual teacher
“Paul Brunton was surely one of the finest mystical flowers to grow on the wasteland of our secular civilization. What he has to say is important to us all.”
– Georg Feuerstein (1947–2012), author of The Yoga-Sutra of Patañjali
“In The Short Path to Enlightenment, Paul Brunton gives voice to the profound teachings of immediate spiritual awakening that have the power to short circuit the seeker in us and reveal the true nature of reality here and now. But the true gift of this wonderful book is in how nuanced and subtle Paul Brunton understood these profound and transformational teachings and how directly he conveys them. Read this book as you would a scripture or a sutra and let it open your eyes to eternity.”
– Adyashanti, author of The Way of Liberation
“The Short Path to Enlightenment is a deeply supportive text from the extraordinary Paul Brunton, the spiritual explorer who first brought knowledge of Ramana Maharishi to the West. In this work, readers receive the invitation and instruction to discover the truth of oneself. This book is alive with supreme knowledge. May it support you in immediately and continually recognizing yourself.”
– Gangaji, author of The Diamond in Your Pocket
“With the possible exception of Alan Watts, Paul Brunton has probably been the most influential exponent of Eastern philosophy and systems of self-realization in this century. . . . significant commentaries on nearly every conceivable aspect of the spiritual quest . . . unreservedly recommended as the final, eloquent summing up by one of the West’s most perceptive thinkers and deepest students of the ancient wisdom.”
– The American Theosophist
“Nowhere else will you find such a profound synthesis of East-West philosophic mysticism stripped of all the usual obscurity and extravagances. Both the modern intellect and the weary heart will find unlimited inspiration, wisdom, and guidance for action in these Notebooks.”
– Victor Mansfield (1941-2008), author and professor of physics and astronomy at Colgate University
“Paul Brunton’s Notebooks series is a veritable treasure trove of philosophic-spiritual wisdom.”
– Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (1926-2004), author of On Death and Dying